Spilogale putorius- the Eastern Spotted Skunk



Form and Function


Spilogale putorius is a weasel-like skunk that is characterized by a pattern of stripes and spots located along its body. The length of their body is 24.1cm to 25.6, with up to roughly a third of their body length being their tail, adding on another 11 to 19cm (Bullock 2008). According to the Mississippi Department of Conservation these skunks have a surprisingly low weight that only ranges from about ¾ lbs-3lbs. The males are larger than the females and have a mean weight of around 1.4lbs, while females are at a mean weight of 1.0lbs. This source also tell us some of the very distinctive fur patterns that occur almost all Spilogale putorius. The base color for this species is black with white accents. They have a white dot on their forehead, in front of both ears, have four broken up white stripes running along their heads to their backs, and their tails are white at the end. These colors do not necessarily tell their prey or predators that they are any danger, but it easily separates them from the rest of the skunk family.


Since their prey is usually small insects and rodents, they have a small head and legs (ICUN). Bullock (2008) explains that even though they have a small head, their ears will actually be larger than most skunks, which is an advantage in being able to hear small prey and help in heat loss. In her research, Bullock also found that they will have longer claws for digging and holding down prey, as well as pads on the soles of their feet for climbing.

The Eastern Spotted Skunk will adapt to the seasons by finding new food sources, new dens, and new ground to mate in. During the winter months they will have to adjust their eating to small mammals like mice, but during the spring and summer months they will return back to eating insects, plants, and fruits (Bullock 2008). The males will typically have a longer geological range, in which they call home range, than females due to the journey of finding a mate, but will return back to their specific niche after the season. Males do not participate in the raising of their young. Young reach adulthood at 10-12 weeks and are let on their own at about 14 weeks old (Graham 1997). The average lifespan of the Eastern Spotted Skunk is 1 to 2 years in the wild, but when in captivity it is roughly 5 to 6 years. To learn more about their reproduction visit the reproduction page on our website.

Another distinct feature of the Spotted Skunk is their unique defense mechanism. The Eastern Spotted Skunk will stand on its two front legs doing a “handstand”. This position shows off their stripes, warning their predators that they have a potent chemical that they will use. If their predator does not back off the skunk will stomp its foot for a final warning before spraying. The skunk will then aim the smelly chemicals from their anal glands toward their opponent’s eyes, and release. The chemicals cause blindness for an extremely short period of time and leave a stinky residue (Wood 1991).

More knowledge available on the next page, Reproduction and Life History!

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